28 December 2006

Life in music

Inspired by Spider and Jimmi and their compilations of number one songs on their birthdates since they were born, for my birthday I've decided to do the same, however being the 4/4 beatnik that I am, I am including both the Billboard Hot 100 single and Dance Chart single of each year!

1971
Hot 100: Melanie - Brand New Key
1972 Hot 100: Billy Paul - Me & Mrs. Jones
1973 Hot 100: Jim Croce - Time In A Bottle
1974 Hot 100: Helen Reddy - Angie Baby
Club Play: Al Downing - I'll Be Holding On
1975 Hot 100: The Staple Singers - Let's Do It Again
Club Play: The O'Jays - I Love Music
1976 Hot 100: Rod Stewart - Tonight's The Night
Club Play: Thelma Houston - Don't Leave Me This Way
1977 Hot 100: Bee Gees - How Deep Is Your Love
Club Play: Donna Summer - Once Upon A Time
1978 Hot 100: Chic - Le Freak
Club Play: Chic - Le Freak

1979 Hot 100: Rupert Holmes - Escape (The Pina Colada Song)
Club Play: Don Armando's Second Avenue Rhumba Band - Deputy of Love
1980 Hot 100: John Lennon - (Just Like) Starting Over
Club Play: Kool & the Gang - Celebration / Take It to the Top
1981 Hot 100: Olivia Newton-John - Physical
Club Play: Madleen Kane - You Can / Fire in My Heart
1982 Hot 100: Daryl Hall and John Oates - Maneater
Club Play: The Weather Girls - It's Raining Men
1983 Hot 100: Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson - Say Say Say
Club Play: Daryl Hall and John Oates - Say It Isn't So
1984 Hot 100: Madonna - Like A Virgin
Club Play: Madonna - Like A Virgin

1985 Hot 100: Lionel Ritchie - Say You, Say Me
Club Play: Alisha - Baby Talk
1986 Hot 100: The Bangles - Walk Like An Egyptian
Club Play: Janet Jackson - Control
1987 Hot 100: George Michael - Faith
Club Play: Whitney Houston - So Emotional
1988 Hot 100: Poison - Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Club Play: Camouflage - The Great Commandment
1989 Hot 100: Phil Collins - Another Day In Paradise
Club Play: Janet Jackson - Rhythm Nation
1990 Hot 100: Stevie B. - Because I Love You (The Postman Song)
Club Play: C+C Music Factory - Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)
1991 Hot 100: Michael Jackson - Black Or White
Club Play: Adeva - It Should Have Been Me
1992 Hot 100: Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You
Club Play: The S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M. - It's Gonna Be a Lovely Day
1993 Hot 100: Mariah Carey - Hero
Club Play: Gloria Estefan - Tradicion
1994 Hot 100: Boyz 2 Men - On Bended Knee
Club Play: Ace of Base - Living In Danger
1995 Hot 100: Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men - One Sweet Day
Club Play: La Bouche - Be My Lover
1996 Hot 100: Toni Braxton - UnBreak My Heart
Club Play: Toni Braxton - UnBreak My Heart

1997 Hot 100: Elton John - Something About the Way You Look Tonight / Candle in the Wind 1997
Club Play: Lisa Stansfield - Never Gonna Fall
1998 Hot 100: R. Kelly and Céline Dion - I'm Your Angel
Club Play: Cher - Believe
1999 Hot 100: Santana featuring Rob Thomas - Smooth
Club Play: Eurythmics - 17 Again
2000 Hot 100: Destiny's Child - Independent Women Part I
Club Play: Daft Punk - One More Time
2001 Hot 100: Nickelback - How You Remind Me
Club Play: Crystal Waters - Come On Down
2002 Hot 100: Eminem - Lose Yourself
Club Play: Oscar G and Ralph Falcon - Dark Beat (Addicted to Drums)
2003 Hot 100: Outkast - Hey Ya!
Club Play: Britney Spears featuring Madonna - Me Against the Music
2004 Hot 100: Snoop Dogg featuring Pharrell - Drop It Like It's Hot
Club Play: Gwen Stefani - What You Waiting For?
2005 Hot 100: Mariah Carey - Don't Forget About Us
Club Play: Eurythmics - I've Got a Life (It's the Only Thing That's Mine)
2006 Hot 100: Beyonce - Irreplaceable
Club Play: Pepper Mashay - Lost Yo Mind

Well...I thought this was a great idea until I saw how horrible this list is! Man, I thought music had gone to shit in the past five years, but now I see that at least around the end of the year, it's never been very good! What's up with that?

God, North American tastes in music really, really suck.

Interesting that only once per decade at the end of the year, the Hot 100 #1 is the same at the Hot Dance Club Play #1. The 2000s have still to fit this trend.

27 December 2006

What would the holidays be like without...

...coldsores? Those good ol' Herpes simplex virus-1 infection (HSV-1) thingies? I love them. The canary in the coal mine for my overall well-being. I can tell very early on whether I'm getting run down physically and/or mentally by the outbreak of these little darlings. Actually, in a good way the older I get the more sensitive I am to immune system compromise and those cute little coldsores tend to appear much earlier on than they used to. Luckily, I also treat myself a lot better than I used to so I don't get outbreaks very often anymore. But at the holiday season, they always tend to rear their ugly whiteheads at some point or another. The endless barrage of holiday parties and the stress of hosting events, trying to maintain an exercise schedule, and sleeping irregularly all take their toll.

We got Xmas out of the way. The dinner on Sunday night went off surprisingly well, with 24 mouths stuffed and lots of laughs. I felt so sorry for Joe -- I thought it was pretty insensitive that people were calling him up on the 23rd to invite themselves to the dinner. Like, what was he supposed to do? Say 'no'? It's Xmas, after all. The Spag staff had a great time and I'm sure that gives Joe more brownie points with the people he works with. We had everyone kicked out by 1:30am, and only one puke pile to clean up on the balcony (ahh...the naivety of youth mixed with the exuberance of excessive liquor consumption). Was it worth it? Well, my man now has the flu after several stress breakdowns on the 24th and he threw his back out on Xmas morning moving furniture back into place (and stubbing his toe getting stuff moved into place the day before). I'd ask him that question, but I'd be wary of the unpredictable grumpiness.

Xmas day was very quiet. I had intentions to go out for a ride with Reid and Keith, but the noon departure time was too early. I ended up spending a lot of time on the computer and watching movies (Star Trek Marathon!) after opening gifts, cleaning all the dishes and pots from the evening before and calling my family in Manitoba and having the phone passed around to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

Yesterday I got out for a run with Ross and then headed over to Noel and Allie's open house in Dover. They completely gutted the house they just bought this fall and renovated the entire place. It's looking rather fantastic. I got home around 9:30 and went to bed early in preparation for a return to work today.

I was on call over the holiday and got a service/incident call at least once per day. I'm not too happy about that, but at least I wasn't really on holidays. That's coming up in 2007 when I start using up my 22 days of A/V, six flex days and three days of time in lieu I have coming to me.

Tonight I'm supposed to be meeting up with Kathie and John. I used to live with Kathie in Red Deer, but her and John have been living in Ontario for the past few years and we catch up whenever she's in town to visit her family. It's half snowing/raining outside today so I'm not sure if they're going to be able to make it into Calgary from Kathie's parents place in Langdon.

Jason H's gathering goes on Friday night, and then Joe and I will be busy getting things ready for the NYE party on the weekend.

Usually they just push each other into the ditch?


Gotta be hard to do with cleats on....

22 December 2006

Holiday Train in motion!

Raising some interesting Qs


Ancient rock art to be removed to make way for Australian gas project
Last Updated: Friday, December 22, 2006 | 11:22 AM ET
CBC Arts

A petroleum company plans to begin removing more than 150 ancient rock paintings from a site just off Australia's west coast after the federal government turned down an application for a heritage listing that would have preserved the art.

On Friday, federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell rejected an application to issue an emergency heritage listing for the Burrup Peninsula, saying a listing could hamper the oil and gas industry.

"It's important that we protect our heritage but also protect our economy, protect our jobs …. Also see natural gas being exported to the rest of the world," Campbell said.

Woodside Petroleum says it will act quickly to remove the petroglyphs from the site to make way for a $5-billion Australian ($4.2-billion Cdn) gas project.

Environmentalists and heritage organizations had applied for the heritage listing to protect the more than one million rock carvings on the Dampier Archipelago, a chain of islands off a remote part of Australia.

The carvings are 6,000 to 30,000 years old and chronicle the cultural heritage of ancient Aboriginal societies.

The petroglyphs are under threat because of acid rain from existing petrochemical plants in the region, and projects that involve blasting to clear the way for development, according to a report by the National Trust, a conservation organization.

Aboriginal groups have pressed for protection for the region, along with Australia's Green party.

"I'm not very happy at all because they are destroying our heritage and as I've always said, they are destroying our Bible that's lying on the Burrup," said Wong-Goo-Tt-Oo elder Wilfred Hicks.

Archeologists say there has been little study of the remote region — all the works have not been catalogued and not much is known about the ancient cultures that created them.

The rejection of the heritage listing, made after just 10 days of study by the minister, is unacceptable, said Senator Rachel Siewert, a representative of the Green party.

"This is undoubtedly a heritage site, of not only national, but of world significance, and if he can't see his duty is to protect this area — to list it and protect it — he should step down as minister because he's incapable of carrying out his duties," she said.

This brings up interesting questions of priorities. What are we willing to give up to continue feeding our incessant thirst for energy? Are we willing to give up historical and cultural heritage sites, either relocating or destroying them? How much of our environment are we prepared to give up as it is plundered, mowed over, or polluted? In Alberta, in the past a big point of contention has been gas exploration and extraction in the Foothills, especially in the Kananaskis region, with oil companies, environmentalists, and NIMBYs all getting involved. But as we move forward, what about the Fort McMurray region and the Lake Athabasca/Peace River watershed? If the tar sands are fully exploited and plundered, I think we can safely say that this region will be irrevocably damaged in the name of getting at more energy sources, possibly to the point of being a dead zone. Are we willing to sacrifice our legacies in order for short-term profits? Especially those energy sources that we know we are going to have to wean ourselves off of anyways?

This makes me think of the issue surrounding the Taliban's destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001. They were destroyed because Afghanistan's Islamist clerics began a campaign to crack down on "un-Islamic" segments of Afghan society. The Taliban soon banned all forms of imagery, music and sports, including television, in accordance with what they considered a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

These 2500 year old statues were destroyed in the name of religion. How much different is it to destroy something in the name of resource extraction? Is there a big distinction? We seem to be able to make the distinction, if only to make ourselves feel better about this wanton destruction of history and/or nature.

Are we then any better? We may think so, but at what cost? In 100 years, when all of Alberta is one big reclamation site, with all of our water and natural resources permanently altered or gone, will we think differently about the consequences of our decisions?


21 December 2006

More holiday inundations


Whew! It's been a nutty week and it's about to get a whole lot nuttier! I think pretty much every day for the next week and a bit is filled with some social engagement of some sort or other.

I just sent out the E-vites for the New Years Eve party. Lots of invites, and typically one gets about a 30% positive return, so we're still looking at 30 or 40 people over that night. That's a little more reasonable than the 60 we had in the apartment last year!

I've been running and working out feverishly this week in preparation of the calorie onslaught over the next few days. I'm running with Reid tomorrow and that will take me over the 100km mark for the week! I find it hard to believe I've ran that much this week. I think that's one of my highest mileage counts for a seven day period yet. More turkey for me! Yay!

Happy holidays everyone!

20 December 2006

..still more Xmas excess

I'm meeting Natasha at the Ship & Anchor tonight for beers. Hopefully I can convince a few others to come out as well.

It would be great to get the gang together for one last hurrah before Xmas on either Friday or Saturday.

Sean is having a party on Sunday night, but that's the night of our Xmas Eve dinner.

We've been graciously invited over to friends on Xmas Day, but I think our intent is to spend the day moving as little as possible off the couch. I will consider a run or ride that day and Boxing Day -- something Ross and I have already planned.

Our friends Noel and Allie have invited us to their place on Boxing Day for an Open House. We haven't seen them in a long time so it should be fun!

E-vites for the NYE party should hopefully be going out tonight or tomorrow...sorry for the delay.

I'll hopefully get the Holiday Train video on YouTube tonight after work.

Be well, everyone! Seasons greetings and all that jazz!

18 December 2006

Xmas seasonings

The past week has been full of holiday events. Last weekend was Jeff's annual Chrismakkuh blowout. I was one of the lightweights that evening as I had curled and imbibed in a few in the afternoon on Saturday before even getting to the party. I crawled into bed at Jeff's house around 3am, only to be violently awoken by Joe stating that Calvin and Doug were heading home and offering us a ride. In a hazy stupor, I collected all of my things, or so I thought, and went home. It wasn't until Sunday that I realized I had left a whole bunch of stuff at Jeff's so Joe and I whipped past his house on our way up to Red Deer.





Joe and I made it up to Red Deer in the late afternoon and visited with my mom, dad and Trezlie while Owen and Chloe went to Chloe's company's Xmas party. We had a lot of good conversation and food -- not so many drinks though, my stomach was saying 'no' to that.

We had our official Xmas dinner when Chloe came home from work in the morning on Monday. After a fantastic meal, we did a quick gift exchange and headed to Costco for a quick shopping stop before Joe and I hopped in the car to head back to Calgary. I was pretty relaxed after that trip and really wanted to take all of Tuesday away from work as well, but there was too much work to do so I went in anyways.


The rest of the week was a flurry of web server deployments and hours in the gym until Thursday rolled around. We had our work Xmas get-together at James Joyce Pub on Stephen Avenue. We all ate and did Secret Santa.



Unfortunately I had to leave before all the festivities get well underway since Joe, Jeff and Doug were meeting me in Gulf Canada Square to take in the employees-only viewing of the Holiday Train, which stopped just east of headquarters downtown for about 45 minutes. Wide Mouth Mason and Lisa Brokop played a few tunes for the small crowd that gathered and then continued on to its stop for the public in Bowness. This was the first time I had seen the train -- pretty cool.





Joe and I went home and got ready for the Apollo Xmas Mixer at Dakota. We stuck around there for some conversation with some people we knew but headed home early.

After the workday on Friday, I headed up to Peak Power for the Xmas party hosted by them. We did some drinking/timed sport events, and then hopped on the PartyMachine bus to head downtown. We ate at Classic Jacks on 17th Ave. and then the group headed over to 1410 to continue the party. I headed home to drop off my MP3 player and sole remaining leather glove (I lost the other somewhere between the Peak Power office and the Party Machine), and once I got home decided to crash since the next morning was the Frontrunners Xmas brunch and run.

I headed over to Tim and Doug's house and found that only six or so Frontrunners showed up, but we made the best of the beautiful morning and headed out for our run. We got back to Tim and Doug's around 10:15 and proceeded to gorge on the fantastic brunch setup. Joe showed up around 11:30 and visited for awhile. After many coffees and mimosas, Joe and I got home around 2:30 and began cleaning the house. We finished putting up the remaining decorations and spent the evening quietly at home.

I went out for a run with Ross on Sunday morning and spent the rest of the day cleaning house and email. I'm finally updating the blog now because I'll have to post another one at the beginning of next week with the low-down on the Xmas Eve dinner festivities!

We're also planning our NYE party, so be ready to receive the invites.

Sign of the times

A Skybariffic summary

Are Humans Totally Stupid?
Either we're hell-bent on self-destruction, or we truly care about the planet. Or, you know, both
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Friday, December 8, 2006

They say that when gas prices drop, SUV sales surge.

Conversely, they say that when gas prices jump above three bucks a gallon and hover there for a while and everyone is slapped upside the head once again with the painful and obvious reminder that oh yeah we are in the midst of a brutal and losing war over waning petroleum deposits and we are heating up the planet like maniac monkeys and we are really really not paying close enough attention to what all those hurricanes and eroded glaciers and crying trees are trying to tell us, well, that's when our conscience finally kicks in and more people consider buying a Prius and maybe an organic salad, just in case.

It's just incredibly easy, in this painful, tragicomic age of Bush, to take the pessimist's view and think we are, as evidenced by the rather dimwitted formula above, simple as rocks. Stupid, even. Ignorant, reactionary, shortsighted as a Republican rubbing himself with a wad of tobacco lobbyist cash. Is it not obvious?

In other words, it's incredibly easy to believe, given the current planetary circumstances, that we really just don't give much of a damn, that simple decision-making equations like the above prove that we are a rather thoughtless species, reacting only to the most primitive of market forces while remaining hell-bent on serving our most immediate needs and screw the planet and screw the long view and screw what kind of burned-up oil-depleted storm-ridden water-deprived world your kids will be facing in a mere 25 years, just save me a few bucks on a tank of Saudi gas and let's call it an environment.

Sure we care, but we don't really care. Not enough to make significant or permanent change, not enough to radically refocus our agenda to a degree that might affect our mall-addicted oil-bloated American lifestyles. Buy a hybrid when gas prices soar? Pure economics, for most. Saves a few citizens from emphysema and removes a few million pounds of toxic chemicals from the air and hence in 2004 alone Prius drivers did the job of 9,478,000 trees? Just a bonus, really.

It's an ongoing and eternal question spawned of the jaded, pessimistic spirit: Just how stupidly self-destructive are we? How much longer can we possibly survive before we simply consume and waste and blow ourselves to smithereens? After all, the experts tell us that every culture prior to ours -- that is, all those that eventually turned into gluttonous warmongering insanely wasteful empires -- they all imploded. Every single one. Wiped themselves out, burned themselves up, abused their resources to death. Put it this way: If history is any lesson at all, we are just incredibly, deliciously doomed.

But wait, is this bitter view really true? Are we really all that dumb and careless and sad? Doesn't poll after poll and study after study say people really do care about the environment and the food they eat and the impact they have on the planet, and most people say they're willing to change and willing to pay a bit more for products that are environmentally conscious? Sure they do. Problem is, it just ain't that easy.

After all, it's a vicious, capitalistic world and hence common sense, intuition and true spiritual awareness are often merely the meek bitchslaves to aggressive marketing campaigns and soulless politicians and an instant gratification culture that values the immediate money shot far more than it does long-term slow-burn extended orgasm. Deep, soulful caring is often just below "replace smoke alarm battery" in terms of priority.

It's a convoluted and polarizing idea, this one about raising awareness and caring about the health of our pale blue dot and learning to take better care of everything around us lest Jesus/Shiva/Kronos comes back and says, "No, sorry but no, that's not what I meant at all," and turns us all into quivering microscopic amoeba and starts all over again.

On the one hand, we seem to be more destructive to the health of our bodies and our planet than ever before. War and disease and ignorance and prescription meds are plentiful as candy and millions still believe the entire universe was created in a week by some angry bearded spiteful grandfather who hates gays and isn't all that fond of women or sex or Hindus either, and if you just shut off your brain and close your legs and despise the right kind of people, you will get to hang out with him for all eternity. Joy.

On the other hand, we seem to be making huge gains across the board in terms of raising the collective consciousness about issues that we've essentially ignored since man first hacked down a forest to build a factory: global warming, organic foods, energy abuse, our impact on the world. Check the headlines, read the blogs and the magazines and listen to a few of the better politicians: There's more information and more empowering ideas available than ever before. You just gotta open your eyes to really see.

Maybe it's like smoking. Twenty years back, the toxic haze was everywhere. Now: Banned on planes and restaurants and bars and you can't even smoke near most buildings in most major cities in America, and despite what every bitter phlegmy smoker grumbles about lost human rights, there isn't a single non-smoking human alive who isn't grateful for the change, every single day. Sure, millions still smoke, the tobacco lobby is still nasty as an encephalitic pit bull, but something has shifted, something vital and deep and permanent. And we're the better for it.

Al Gore was on "Oprah" recently, doing his "Inconvenient Truth" thing. Oprah herself extolled everyone in the "Oprah" universe to buy and watch Gore's DVD. This is powerful. This is the mainstreaming of a very big idea. Will it make a difference? Will anyone really care? Sure they will. Global warming is in the news more than ever and people sense there's a severe problem and no matter what the naysayers and the idiot skeptics and the pasty enviro-hating Republican Congressmen say, people just know. They get it. Storms and hurricanes and bizarre heat waves and glaciers gone? Something's amiss and it ain't just Mother Nature's menopause. Are those big smokestacks really any different than giant cigarettes, jammed into nature's mouth? Nope. You just gotta learn to see it that way.

This much we know: The human race progresses in fits and starts and heaves and spits. While many of us like to envision some sort of big epiphanic transcendental whoop that will wake everyone up in a flash and a gulp and an orgiastic squirt, in fact, change comes in lurching sidelong waves, in oddly torqued perspective shifts, two steps forward one and step back and three steps sideways and eventually praise Jesus hi Allah thank Buddha, we get there. Maybe. If we're lucky.

And really, given our wicked fun-loving deeply conscious stupidly bipolar natures, that's probably the best we can do.

Yet again, not surprised

Drop emissions lawsuit: carmakers

The six largest automakers have asked a US judge to toss out a lawsuit by California that accuses them of harming humans and the environment by producing vehicles that add to global warming. The American and Japanese automakers filed a motion Friday in US District Court in Oakland to dismiss the state's suit, and an attorney for the carmakers said Saturday that state officials who want to reduce auto emissions should do it through regulation not litigation. "It's the classic kind of case that the Supreme Court has said doesn't belong in federal court," said Theodore Boutrous, who represents Chrysler, General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda and Nissan. State Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who filed the suit in September, claims automakers are violating public nuisance laws by producing high-emission vehicles and should pay damages for polluting. He says automakers could produce cleaner vehicles, but have chosen to fight instead. "The thrust of what we're saying is the technology to produce vehicles that emit far less greenhouse gases exists," Lockyer spokeswoman Teresa Schilling said. "They fight any attempt to get them to cut back on their pollution." The lawsuit contends the state is already dealing with the harmful effects of global warming caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases.
(Toronto Star 061218)

The automakers know far too well that it will be much cheaper for them to fight any lawsuit than aquiesce to pressure to improve emissions and mileage standards. ANY improvement to vehicle safety, performance, emissions controls has always been enacted by government and FORCED by legislation on the car companies to comply. They have never, not once, ever attempted to make these improvements themselves for the sake of human or environmental safety or even their own technological advantage over the competitors because this all affects the bottom line, period. Plus it's simply easier to keep using the same old inefficient technologies than to invest money in new efficient technologies they claim the public has no interest in. Did they ever stop to think that if they offered reasonable alternatives to the consuming public, they would be incorporated into the common mindset? If efficiency and dependability, rather than size and power, were considered the ultimate preferred characteristics of a vehicle BECAUSE the manufacturers decided so, there's no doubt in my mind that we would ALL be driving such vehicles today. But of course, that requires efforts and responsibility on the count of the corporations. Culpability is not one of their more admirable traits over the past few decades. I find this absolution of responsibility and type of behavior disgusting ("but the market reports say the people want bigger, BIGGER!"). But what do you expect? The corporations are ALL doing it. Anything to lower expenses or boost profits -- ANYTHING.

I guess we'll have to fall into the same old cycle of public pressure-->government regulation-->corporate compliance all over again until things look rosier economically for the car manufacturers and the regulations are loosened and the car manufacturers can go back to doing things in the same old wasteful ways. We never learn a fucking thing.

It's very disheartening that the consuming public is so myopic in our views that we can't collectively force the car companies to adopt new efficient technologies without government intervention. The ones that look for improvements are always in the minority because these changes are always considered risky, expensive, and disruptive, yet almost always end up in reality being a net positive undertaking. Why can't we ever learn that? It's like we can't monitor and control our own behaviors and actions properly so we need the babysitter to do it for us and then someone else to blame when things don't turn out as expected. Well, what do you expect from a society of self-centred, sociopathic, immature babies? Self-actualization, responsibility and civility? Come on....get real!

Anyone want to make a quick trip to Burnaby?

'Purest form of cycling'

Published: Friday, December 15, 2006
Old-time cycling will make a 21st century comeback in the new year, as the second annual Six Days of Burnaby hits the banked wooden track at the Harry Jerome Sports Centre.

Highlighting the Jan. 2-7 event at the Burnaby Velodrome is the Madison, a unique tag-team-type competition pitting teams of two against each other. One cyclist races around the 200-metre track while the other rests by pedaling slowly, high on the bank. They change places when one rider grabs the other's hand and slings him -- or her -- into the pack.

"It's quite a rush for competitors and fans. It's an old-fashioned extreme sport that was forgotten about for a while," says Andy George, president of the Burnaby Velodrome Club. "A lot of people don't even know it -- or the Velodrome -- exists."

Top riders can reach speeds of 70 km/h on the Velodrome's banked sides and steep corners. Besides staying aware of their surroundings, cyclists have to also fight the G-forces that are drawing their bikes upwards while they try to maintain as straight a line as possible.

They must maintain a speed of at least 30 km/h to prevent the bike from sliding off the track.

"It's the purest form of cycling," says Keith Bruneau, a former national cycling team member who holds four national titles and more than 30 provincial titles. "No brakes, fixed gear, plus the degree of the bank and the speed. It has its extreme components."

Six-day races were extremely popular in North America in the 1920s and '30s, says George, when they were tailored to arenas like New York's Madison Square Garden -- hence the name Madison.

Last year's six-day race in Burnaby was the first of its kind held in Canada in more than 30 years.

"Back then it would attract as many people as a hockey game does now," says George, who will be competing in the Madison and sprints competitions.

The Madison will be the featured race each night, while the evenings will be rounded out with a mixture of other events, including scratch races, points races, sprint races and Australian pursuit racing.

Bruneau will be joined in the elite category by Symmetrics pro riders Svein Tuft, Cam Evans, Christian Meier, Zach Bell and Marsh Cooper, as well as U.S. U-23 individual pursuit champ Dan Harm.

iwalker@png.canwest.com

SIX DAYS OF BURNABY

WHERE: Burnaby Velodrome, 7564 Barnet Highway

WHAT: Top North American track professionals will race for six nights in a variety of events, including the feature race, the Madison.

WHEN: Jan. 2-7

COST: Food donation

WEBSITE: www.burnabyvelodrome.ca

15 December 2006

Well, duh....

Cut the horsepower, military, ceos agree

American motorists not only love their trucks and SUVs, but they want them ever more powerful, with 0-to-60 acceleration that used to be reserved for much lighter muscle cars. To feed that thirst for power, auto makers have boosted the horsepower in passenger vehicles by an average of 85% over the past 20 years, while increasing acceleration 25%, even as the average weight rose 30%. Not surprisingly, fuel economy has suffered and American thirst for gasoline has escalated dramatically. Now a high-powered group is blaming that NASCAR effect for driving the US into a dangerous dependency on potentially hostile crude oil suppliers. The Energy Security Leadership Council is urging Congress to launch an all-out effort to reduce gasoline consumption by dramatically increasing mileage standards and subsidizing alternative fuels. “Our nation is at risk, and it is time for serious action,” the leadership council, made up of former military leaders and prominent corporate executives, said in a report released this week. Environmentalists have long called for Washington to impose stricter fuel economy standards as part of the effort to combat global warming, and now they have some powerful allies who argue US interests are vulnerable to threats from oil-producing nations and terrorists who target distribution systems.

In its report, the Energy Security Leadership Council urged the government to mandate a 4% yearly improvement in overall fuel efficiency standards, and to include commercial vehicles that have been exempt from such standards. The council said such tougher mileage standards could reduce oil consumption by about four million barrel a day, equivalent to 20% of current US demand. The leaders also urged Washington to dramatically increase subsidies for bio-fuels and to speed up the commercialization of biomass ethanol. But the report noted the council is not proposing that the US aim for “energy independence,” saying such a goal is unrealistic. Rather, it wants the country to reduce its “oil intensity” — the amount of oil used to generate each dollar of economic output — by half in order to reduce the potential impact of another oil crisis. US auto makers have aggressively opposed a toughening of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, the so-called CAFE standards first adopted 30 years ago. Instead, they are working with the Bush administration and the National Highway Safety Administration to set new voluntary standards. Charles Territo of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in Washington said new mandates for fuel efficiency would drive up prices dramatically, and would prompt motorists to drive their older, less-fuel-efficient models longer instead of buying new cars. He said the reduction in fuel efficiency described in the council's report resulted from consumers' shift into SUVs and light trucks; he noted that individual models, on average, have improved by some 2% per year.
(Wall Street Journal 061215)

14 December 2006

13 December 2006

Christmas Music for cyclists


Nutcracker Suite Played Exclusively on Bicycle Parts here.

One person's trash is another's treasure

Liposuctioned fat could be bio-diesel fuel
Posted on : Thu, 07 Dec 2006 01:28:01 GMT | Author : General News Editor

OSLO, Norway, Dec. 6 - One person's liposuction is another person's biodiesel fuel, as a Norwegian businessman wants to use suctioned fat to develop an alternative fuel source.

Biodiesel can be produced from either plant oils or animal fat, and Lauri Venoy sees the product from liposuction procedures as a renewable energy source, Aftenposten said.

Venoy's firm in Miami is in negotiations with a hospital to give the company about 3,000 gallons of human fat a week from liposuction operations, which the company says is enough to produce about 2,600 gallons of biodiesel fuel.

In Norway biodiesel is primarily produced from fish oils and used fryer fat.

Copyright 2006 by UPI

What a great idea as far as sustainability goes! There's no shortage of this fuel source, so you might as well use it as an input for another system! Who knew that that was the real reason America is so damn fat - we saw the energy crunch coming? Ahem.

Fox News needs a 'Facts Writer'!

FOXNEWS = UNBIASED FACTS. Now that's good for a laugh!

Job Location New York, NY USA
Job Requirements Freelance Fact Writer

New York

Requirements/Responsibility:

FOX News Channel, a fast-paced 24-hour television news operation in New York City, is seeking a Freelance Fact Writer for its information center.

Responsibilities include writing on-air facts and press conference quotes for daytime programming. Individuals must have strong writing skills, be able to handle multiple assignments and deadlines, and work well in a team atmosphere. Excellent communication and writing skills are also required.

A successful candidate will:

* Possess a strong interest in news and be well-informed about current events
* Be detail oriented and pay close attention to spelling, grammar, syntax
* Have ability to write in a concise, conversational and colorful style at an extremely fast pace

Must be willing to work on a flexible schedule including weekend shifts.

This is a high-pressure position where your work product gets national exposure on a daily basis.

A bachelor's degree is required.

Fox News Channel is an EOE.

Interested applicants please send resumes to:

Fox News Channel
Human Resources
2nd floor
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036

Fax: 212-301-8588
Email: Resumes@foxnews.com

WWW.FOXNEWS.COM

08 December 2006

Partisan-what?

Ambrose promises new energy programs

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose promised yesterday new programs to encourage energy conservation - and admitted her government axed popular Liberal programs immediately after taking office, without a comprehensive review. During a testy exchange with Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell at a Senate committee, Ambrose blamed the former government for not having a co-ordinated approach to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The Conservatives scrapped the previous government's multibillion-dollar plan under the Kyoto Protocol. The government is expected to announce new research spending to crack down on toxins and measures to make by-products safe.
(National Post 061208)

Just like in the U.S., the Conservatives are seeing that they can't play partisan politics when in a situation of tenuous control. Especially now that the Conservatives see how they underestimated the importance of the environment and destruction thereof by average Canadian citizens. The backlash to their proposed Clean Air Bill was targeted and harsh, both from within Canada and from the international community. They are forced to listen to the other parties and their constituents much more than if they had majority control. At least they're revisiting their shortcomings.

God, politics is so much bullshit. I can't believe that these appeasing, snivelling, spineless losers determine how all of our lives play out.

Poor poor car companies

GM hopes to end US sales slide in 2007

General Motors' decline in US sales has "bottomed out" and the company hopes to end a four-year slide in US market share during 2007, marketing chief Mark LaNeve said yesterday. GM is counting on new sport-utility vehicles and redesigned cars, pickups and SUVs to stop the fall, LaNeve said. "If we grow a 10th of a point next year, I'll be thrilled out of my mind." GM ceo Rick Wagoner's success with new models through 2007 will determine whether he will rely more on increased revenue or on shedding additional workers and plants to restore profit. He's already identified $9 billion in cuts after posting losses of $13.7B over the last eight quarters. That leaves about $7B, in some combination of reduced costs and increased revenue, to meet his financial targets. GM will get about 40% of its sales next year from such new models as the Chevrolet Silverado pickup, GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook SUVs, and redesigned Cadillac CTS and Chevrolet Malibu sedans. They have enjoyed rising sales as dealers stocked inventories of new large sport utilities like the Chevrolet Tahoe, though production now is running ahead of demand. GM said Wednesday that it was shutting three factories that build large SUVs for two weeks in January.

Wagoner has said that GM isn't out of the woods. He and the automaker are riding higher than they were 19 months ago and in the last year, Wagoner has accelerated cost-cutting and is in the midst of an effort to reduce GM's fixed costs by US$9B annually, aided in part by the agreement of 35,000 United Auto Worker union workers to leave or retire early. A showdown with the UAW and unexpectedly high steel costs will likely dog GM in the coming year, however, according to some Wall Street analysts who sat down with Troy Clarke, GM's head of North America auto operations, Wednesday. GM is poised to post peak earnings on the back of its new products and hefty labour cost reductions, according to a note from Credit Suisse analyst Chris Ceraso, part of a group meeting with Clarke. GM's return to profitability in 2006 will also serve to bolster the union's position that they have conceded enough already, Ceraso said in a note yesterday. From GM's point of view, however, the cost structure for domestic car makers is still out of whack with foreign manufacturers, like Toyota. Until this is resolved and more concessions are given, GM and its peers will remain at a disadvantage. "As it stands today, we think the UAW has a stronger case than the Big 3, and thus we are not anticipating meaningful concessions to be awarded next year," Ceraso said. Thomas Weisel's Scott Merlis said GM focused more on the impact of higher steel costs than in previous discussions. GM is faced with renewing some steel contracts at today's prices, the analysts said, which are much higher than two or three years ago when many of these contracts were likely inked.
(National Post, Montreal Gazette 061208)

Beleaguered Ford sees US sales plunge

Embattled Ford slipped another notch last month as its sales fell an unexpected 10% in the US market, and Toyota surpassed it on a monthly basis for the second time this year. The gloom out of Detroit was dissipated in Canada as sales in this country rose 3% last month, partly because of strong November sales at Ford of Canada. “We missed our own internal sales target for the month,” George Pipas, Ford's US sales analysis manager, said yesterday during a conference call with analysts and reporters. The slide in Ford's US sales last month allowed Toyota to jump ahead of it into second place in the sales rankings. Ford actually fell to fourth spot behind DaimlerChrysler when sales of Mercedes-Benz models are added to those of the Chrysler group. There was more bad news for Ford, as Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy reiterated his sell recommendation yesterday on the company's shares. “We believe that the current planned reduction in capacity will need to be dramatically accelerated, and cut deeper, to keep up with or even get ahead of the rate of Ford's market share declines,” Murphy said in a note to clients. Ford sales in November, which includes Lincoln and Mercury but not Volvo, Land Rover or Jaguar, were 167,545 in the US last month, compared with 187,199 last year. If Ford is seeking examples of where things are going well, it can look to Ford Canada, which posted a 15% jump in sales last month on the back of an 86% rise in passenger car sales. Ford's Fusion small car made the list of top-10-selling cars in Canada in October for the first time, joining fellow newcomer Dodge Caliber, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants. The strong November added to what has been a solid year for Ford in Canada with an 8% gain in the first 11 months of the year. Ford has jumped back into second spot, although it has been a three-way battle with DaimlerChrysler and Toyota for the second-through-fourth spots for much of the year, behind market leader GM. The Ford gain offset GM's 14% slide and helped propel sales in Canada to 123,755 from 120,495 a year earlier, which was the best November since 2002. Toyota's sales fell 2% last month, ending a strong run of consecutive monthly increases. Despite the decline, Toyota sales in Canada for all of 2006 surpassed the record high hit last year. Gains of 8% by the Chrysler group and 17% by Honda pushed them ahead of Toyota and into third and fourth spot respectively.

In related news, Ford announced another production cut on Friday, mirroring similar plans at GM. Ford will cut output in Canada, the US and Mexico by another 15,000 this current quarter. Ford plans to build 620,000 vehicles in North America, 22% less than the 793,000 it produced on the continent in the same quarter last year. The automaker has suspended production of its Freestar minivan in Oakville temporarily to focus on two new models. "Ford is still going through a period of adjustment and I don't think it's finished yet," said Richard Cooper, executive director of J.D.Power & Associates in Canada. "They still are very vulnerable" to their dependence on bigger trucks and SUVs. Half of the new vehicles Canadians are buying now are so-called entry-level products, essentially the cheapest and smallest cars and trucks you can buy. That's been a boon for Honda and Toyota in particular.
(National Post, Globe and Mail, Wall Street Journal 061202)

Woowee! The Big 3 are hoping for a happier 2007, but aren't we all? GM's taking a big gamble that they're going to be able to pull themselves out of their current situation riding on the sales of their gas-guzzling behemoths, which they feel are still very much in demand. Can you imagine what's going to happen if fuel prices spike again in 2007? It's a thought I don't want to dwell on for too long. For Ontario and Michigan, it could be a very, very sad 2007 indeed. Of course, things could get a lot rosier for the car companies as well. If fuel prices stabilize, they might be able to see themselves returning to solvency! I'm still pessimistic about the rosy reports on the state of our fuel supplies. I think excess capacity is gone and the slightest change in the status quo could send prices skyward.

04 December 2006

The banging of the drum just grew much quieter...

Environmentalist Suzuki to Quit Spotlight for Simple Life
By James Regan
Reuters

Sydney - Environmentalist David Suzuki, best known for his television programs on nature and the environment, is ready to step out of spotlight and live the simple life, lamenting that he has not had a greater impact.

Releasing what he insists is his "very last book," a second installment to his autobiography, the 70-year-old Japanese-Canadian says he is looking forward to spending more time in the Canadian wilderness, carving wood and fishing.

He regrets that after decades of campaigning for everything from cleaner air to sustainable farming, his work has not had more impact.

"Nobody any longer knows what a sustainable future is," the bearded, bespectacled environmentalist told Reuters in a recent interview in Australia to promote his book, "David Suzuki: The Autobiography."

"I feel like we are in a giant car heading for a brick wall at 100 miles an hour and everyone in the car is arguing where they want to sit. For God's sake, someone has to say put the brakes on and turn the wheel."

Suzuki is no less passionate about preserving the planet than when his first series, "Suzuki on Science," aired in 1969 but he wants more time for himself.

Over his career he has written more than 40 books, including the best-selling "Looking At" series of children's science titles, and set up the David Suzuki Foundation.

But he regrets having never learned to surf and admitted in his first autobiography in 1987 that the first of his two marriages failed because he refused to give up his work for family time.

The second installment of his autobiography begins with the racism that Suzuki experienced when he and his family were forced to live in an internment camp in Canada during World War II.

Suzuki, who has been affectionately called a "gladiatorial geneticist" for mixing education with entertainment to get his ideas across, says he also no longer sees television as a great education tool.

Over the years millions of viewers have tuned in to his shows, first in Canada and eventually some 40 other countries.

"Planet for the Taking," a 1985 hit series, averaged over 1.8 million viewers a episode and earned him a United Nations Environment Programme Medal in 1985 and "The Nature of Things," produced by Canadian Broadcasting Corp, has been a long-running series.

But Suzuki is ready to leave the limelight.

"I always thought our programs on nature would be different ... but now I realize that I, too, am creating a virtual world, a fabricated version of the real thing," he writes in his autobiography.

Suzuki welcomes a new generation of media-friendly environmentalists, notably former US vice president Al Gore, whose documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" raises fears of global warming and is broadcast in mainstream cinemas.

But he expresses regret that most people still live out of step with nature.

"We are intelligent, so we create our own habitat and we don't need nature except as entertainment or for the extraction of resources," he said. "We still don't get it, that the simple acts of eating a pizza reverberates around the world."

Originally published Wednesday 25 October 2006

After an illustrious career, Suzuki is calling it quits. I'm sure he will still be called on often for soundbites and panel discussions, but despite all his work, he's very frustrated that his pleading for more action on environmental issues over the years has consistently fallen on deaf ears. I don't blame the guy for being pissed off -- how many years could you possibly stand not being heard, while your predictions come true? I will always consider David Suzuki the ultimate Cassandra. His efforts to educate on environmental issues resounded with a generation of Canadian kids, and I hope that his wishes of a call to action do come true before it's too late.

Eat the rich


Ranks of Canadian billionaires blossom
Last Updated: Monday, December 4, 2006 | 1:46 PM ET
CBC News
Canada has a record 46 billionaires, an annual survey by Canadian Business magazine says.

Its survey is in the issue that hit newsstands Monday.The richest entry on the list, is the perennial front-runner — the Thomson family — worth $24.41 billion. The death of patriarch Ken Thomson in June 2006 did not stop the Thomson media empire from generating another $2.2 billion in the last year to add to the family's fortune.

Ted Rogers vaulted from seventh to fourth place in the ranking of richest Canadians, according to Canadian Business magazine. His Rogers Communications stock gained 50 per cent in the last year.
(Canadian Press/Nathan Denette) The magazine says 46 of the richest 100 Canadians in its new list are worth at least $1 billion — up from 40 in its 2005 survey.

New billionaires on the list include the power couple Gerry Schwartz (Onex Corp.) and Heather Reisman (Chapters-Indigo), the Reichmann family, mining magnate Seymour Schulich, and computer whiz David Cheriton, who founded companies that were later acquired by Cisco Systems and Sun Microsystems.

Collectively, the top 100 are worth $153.7 billion, up nine per cent from the $141.6 billion the top 100 were worth last year.

"It has been a prosperous year for the members of our exclusive listing of the most affluent Canadians," said Alex Mlynek, the senior associate editor of Canadian Business.

Canadian Business said it looked at proxy statements, insider-trading reports and other sources to arrive at its estimates.

Here is the top 10 list of Canada's richest, according to Canadian Business:

Thomson family – $24.41 billion
Galen Weston - $7.1 billion
Irving family - $5.45 billion
Ted Rogers - $4.54 billion
Paul Desmarais Sr. - $4.41 billion
Jimmy Pattison - $4.35 billion
Jeff Skoll - $3.93 billion
Barry Sherman - $3.23 billion
David Azrieli - $2.44 billion
Fred and Ron Mannix - $2.38 billion

Doug, like the Vietnamese soup analogy, children are dying in Africa because these people figure that unimaginable wealth can only be put into perspective by accumulating even more unimaginable wealth.

03 December 2006

Light vs. Dark


There have been pretty dark, sobering events and conversation going on lately. In addition to uncontrollable events, I think the cold weather has brought out the collective cynicism in us.

I had an interesting conversation lately -- an analogy about the bipolar nature of Canadian society as a psychological condition, how in the winter we are depressed and in the summer we are manic. The yin and yang of Canadian society. Long periods of darkness vs. long periods of light. West vs. East. Upper Canada vs. Lower Canada. English vs. French. The toughest vs. optimal of conditions in the span of 365.25 days, over and over again. It forces us to ponder the dichotomies of our lives frequently, and I think this gives Canadians a unique perspective on things. Thoughts of the eternal tug of wars between the individual and the state, exposure vs. protection from which we can never escape shape us as a society. A desire to find a moderate, comfortable place for as many as possible seems to be a Canadian trait. That's how we are fundamentally different than our American friends in national identity. We see it in such extremes that we are forced to reflect on it constantly instead of becoming complacent in our contemplations while living in a more stable environment with more moderate variations until a sudden event shakes you up from your slumber. Canadians deal with extremes that by definition could kill you if you don't keep them in humbling consideration in the decisions you make. Americans historically seem more to have had to deal with sudden, personalizable tumultuous events - in a climatic sense, hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires come to mind. This makes them more paranoid than bipolar. Something's always out to get them and/or what they hold dear -- suddenly, tragically. It's more about self-preservation for Americans than collective security whether the threat be real or imaginary.

Americans are paranoid schizophrenic. Canadians are bipolar. That's how we would be diagnosed by a psychiatrist.

We have these ponderings about dichotomies internally as well, and this affects the collective mood as what we struggle with inside affects our environment and therefore each other. Evil vs. Good. Right vs. Wrong. In the closet vs. out of the closet. They're not always opposite, but they are about as different as can be conceived.

Right now in 2006, I think we are in a collective darkness. It's just a product of the unfolding events we see and a growing sense of dread that feeds on itself. I am one of the worst cynics out there (used to be a pragmatist, now a cynic), and there are a LOT of cynics around these days. Many, many more than there were during the exuberant 90's. Is this all a cyclical thing - Like the seasons? Will in ten years we be reflecting on how overstated our cynicism was in the late 00's because collectively in a civil and societal sense we will be in a much lighter place thus our thoughts will reflect this difference, as the individual and collective feed each other?

In my experience to date, I know that things never go as bad as you imagine they will, nor do they ever go as well as you hope. Everything seems to go down a more moderate path, tugging ever so subtly or jumping violently towards one pole or the other, but always working back towards moderation.

I like to think that our concerns we have these days about the state of the world and our own personal vulnerabilities are overblown, that we're 'just in a bad patch' and things are set to work their way back towards moderation.

But I also have to consider that we are also in a unique time in the history of our society, species, and planet and that we are coursing into unchartered territory of scopes of magnitude. This contemplation scares the bejeezus out of me. With so many of our civil, technological, and natural systems being very fragile, at best, things could potentially spin out of our control very quickly and decisively.

How much are we in control anyways? Are we personally, societally, globally up to the task of making the best grave decisions when the time comes that we have no choice but to make them? Do we have the capacity to learn from our mistakes and successes to advance ourselves in the right direction? To gain the gifts of insight and foresight? To remember the lessons from our history? I guess that all works fine in an environment that we can optimally control, medially understand, or at least realize exists.

Maybe the period we're entering into, being the uncharted territory it is, throws everything we know and understand into question. It's time to throw out the instruction manuals, we're flying into this clusterfuck completely blind and stupid. I think the gradual understanding of the gravity of the tasks ahead of us is what's making us in increasing numbers mentally unwell - individually and collectively. We're all getting a palpable sense that there seems to be a little less energy and money to go around to the majority of people with every passing year while our lives move faster and faster, with more quantity and less quality. Some of us are increasingly unable to handle our perceived loss of control and increase in responsibilities while others are increasingly going into denial as a defense mechanism in attempt to maintain a sense of control over a limited set of constants. Very few of us are able to process the concept of being out of control very well. The rates of manic depression and paranoid schizophrenia are rising in more and more individuals as well as groups and civil institutions! I still would like to find out whether the prevalence of mental illness is on the rise, or merely our means of detecting and diagnosing it are improving thus it appears to be on the rise. Does anyone know this for sure? Maybe our entire society is becoming depressed, thus the explosion in cynicism.

Are our perceived future challenges as uncharted as I think? Are things really that out of control? In the scheme of things, is anything really as big a deal as I make it out to be? Many populations and societies have risen and fallen in the past, over and over again, typically due to a perfect storm of overpopulation and resource depletion and/or poor planning. Like Doug said - we're great at building roads but not so great deciding what destination they should head to. What makes our society's situation so unique or special that it is protected from experiencing the same fate as all the ones before?

The entire universe works on concepts of duality and movement back and forth along the range between the two polarities. Rises and falls, explosions and implosions, growth and contraction. Matter vs. antimatter. Order vs. chaos. Creation and destruction. Light and dark. Fantasy and reality. Heaven and hell. Liberal vs. conservative. Purpose vs. lack of purpose.

Infinite scales of magnitude. Forging ahead infinitely on a long-term wavering path towards moderation/neutrality.

Big concepts to wrap my tiny brain around. I don't get any of it, but I appreciate being able to consider it rather than live with my head stuck in the sand, never having the opportunity to ponder the bigger, sobering questions. What a waste of a purely good existence! That concept of contemplation versus denial is a duality in itself!

Denial is an extremely huge waste of time and resources.

I think it is imperative now more than ever that people consider the realities of their situations and the consequences of their decisions and actions. Collectively, these are having a more deleterious effect on the planetary system than ever before -- possibly never again. We can't continue to deny things are not going well around us anymore. Las Vegas and Hollywood are merely fantasies. Hyper-consumerism is a greedy mind-control ploy to distract us from what is really going on in the world. These 'perceptions' aren't very helpful at keeping food on your table or your house warm. They are very effective at deadening the pain and stress for a short period of time. Denial, escape and hope are not, nor result in, positive action.

I believe that most of us understand that in this period in which we live, we are witness to a what will be considered a very interesting and unique historical period. Whether we are moved to action to solve our problems and improve our condition is another question. There are many ways a person can react to big life-altering events, and everyone has something different that motivates them. How the stark reality of these issues are communicated to the majority of the population - the late adopters - while we all plod along will largely determine how we respond collectively to the big scenarios and big questions we are facing now and about to face moreso in the future. I just hope we have it in us to move towards the light and away from the dark.

01 December 2006

The End of Ingenuity

By THOMAS HOMER-DIXON
Published: November 29, 2006
Toronto

MAYBE Malthus was on to something, after all.

First, some background: Twenty-six years ago, in one of the most famous wagers in the history of science, Paul Ehrlich, John Harte and John P. Holdren bet Julian Simon that the prices of five key metals would rise in the next decade. Mr. Ehrlich and his colleagues, all environmental scientists, believed that humankind’s growing population and appetite for natural resources would eventually drive the metals’ costs up. Simon, a professor of business administration, thought that human innovation would drive costs down.

Ten years later, Mr. Ehrlich and his colleagues sent Simon a check for $576.07 — an amount representing the decline in the metals’ prices after accounting for inflation. To many, the bet’s outcome refuted Malthusian arguments that human population growth and resource consumption — and economic growth more generally — would run headlong into the limits of a finite planet. Human inventiveness, stimulated by modern markets, would always trump scarcity.

Indeed, the 1990s seemed to confirm this wisdom. Energy and commodity prices collapsed; ideas (not physical capital or material resources) were the new source of wealth, and local air and water got cleaner — at least in rich countries.

But today, it seems, Mr. Ehrlich and his colleagues may have the last (grim) laugh. The debate about limits to growth is coming back with a vengeance. The world’s supply of cheap energy is tightening, and humankind’s enormous output of greenhouse gases is disrupting the earth’s climate. Together, these two constraints could eventually hobble global economic growth and cap the size of the global economy.

The most important resource to consider in this situation is energy, because it is our economy’s “master resource” — the one ingredient essential for every economic activity. Sure, the price of a barrel of oil has dropped sharply from its peak of $78 last summer, but that’s probably just a fluctuation in a longer upward trend in the cost of oil — and of energy more generally. In any case, the day-to-day price of oil isn’t a particularly good indicator of changes in energy’s underlying cost, because it’s influenced by everything from Middle East politics to fears of hurricanes.

A better measure of the cost of oil, or any energy source, is the amount of energy required to produce it. Just as we evaluate a financial investment by comparing the size of the return with the size of the original expenditure, we can evaluate any project that generates energy by dividing the amount of energy the project produces by the amount it consumes.

Economists and physicists call this quantity the “energy return on investment” or E.R.O.I. For a modern coal mine, for instance, we divide the useful energy in the coal that the mine produces by the total of all the energy needed to dig the coal from the ground and prepare it for burning — including the energy in the diesel fuel that powers the jackhammers, shovels and off-road dump trucks, the energy in the electricity that runs the machines that crush and sort the coal, as well as all the energy needed to build and maintain these machines.

As the average E.R.O.I. of an economy’s energy sources drops toward 1 to 1, an ever-larger fraction of the economy’s wealth must go to finding and producing energy. This means less wealth is left over for everything else that needs to be done, from building houses to moving around information to educating children. The energy return on investment for conventional oil, which provides about 40 percent of the world’s commercial energy and more than 95 percent of America’s transportation energy, has been falling for decades. The trend is most advanced in United States production, where petroleum resources have been exploited the longest and drillers have been forced to look for ever-smaller and ever-deeper pools of oil.

Cutler Cleveland, an energy scientist at Boston University who helped developed the concept of E.R.O.I. two decades ago, calculates that from the early 1970s to today the return on investment of oil and natural gas extraction in the United States fell from about 25 to 1 to about 15 to 1.

This basic trend can be seen around the globe with many energy sources. We’ve most likely already found and tapped the biggest, most accessible and highest-E.R.O.I. oil and gas fields, just as we’ve already exploited the best rivers for hydropower. Now, as we’re extracting new oil and gas in more extreme environments — in deep water far offshore, for example — and as we’re turning to energy alternatives like nuclear power and converting tar sands to gasoline, we’re spending steadily more energy to get energy.

For example, the tar sands of Alberta, likely to be a prime energy source for the United States in the future, have an E.R.O.I. of around 4 to 1, because a huge amount of energy (mainly from natural gas) is needed to convert the sands’ raw bitumen into useable oil.

Having to search farther and longer for our resources isn’t the only new hurdle we face. Climate change could also constrain growth. A steady stream of evidence now indicates that the planet is warming quickly and that the economic impact on agriculture, our built environment, ecosystems and human health could, in time, be very large. For instance, a report prepared for the British government by Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist of the World Bank, calculated that without restraints on greenhouse gas emissions, by 2100 the annual worldwide costs of damage from climate change could reach 20 percent of global economic output.

Humankind’s energy and climate problems are intimately connected. Petroleum’s falling energy return on investment will encourage many economies to burn more coal (which in many parts of the world still has a relatively good E.R.O.I.), but coal emits far more greenhouse-inducing carbon dioxide for every unit of useful energy obtained than other energy sources. Also, many potential solutions to climate change — like moving water to newly arid regions or building dikes and relocating communities along vulnerable coastlines — will require huge amounts of energy.

Without a doubt, mankind can find ways to push back these constraints on global growth with market-driven innovation on energy supply, efficient use of energy and pollution cleanup. But we probably can’t push them back indefinitely, because our species’ capacity to innovate, and to deliver the fruits of that innovation when and where they’re needed, isn’t infinite.

Sometimes even the best scientific minds can’t crack a technical problem quickly (take, for instance, the painfully slow evolution of battery technology in recent decades), sometimes market prices give entrepreneurs poor price signals (gasoline today is still far too cheap to encourage quick innovation in fuel-efficient vehicles) and, most important, sometimes there just isn’t the political will to back the institutional and technological changes needed.

We can see glaring examples of such failures of innovation even in the United States — home to the world’s most dynamic economy. Despite decades of increasingly dire warnings about the risks of dependence on foreign energy, the country now imports two-thirds of its oil; and during the last 20 years, despite increasingly clear scientific evidence regarding the dangers of climate change, the country’s output of carbon dioxide has increased by a fifth.

As the price of energy rises and as the planet gets hotter, we need significantly higher investment in innovation throughout society, from governments and corporations to universities. Perhaps the most urgent step, if humankind is going to return to coal as its major energy source, is to figure out ways of safely disposing of coal’s harmful carbon dioxide — probably underground.

But in the larger sense, we really need to start thinking hard about how our societies — especially those that are already very rich — can maintain their social and political stability, and satisfy the aspirations of their citizens, when we can no longer count on endless economic growth.

Cy, I found this article shortly after posting another comment on the last article. It sort of repeats more eloquently the points I was trying to get across.

30 November 2006

What Would Jesus Drive?

Courtesy John Longhurst

By Aaron Epp

WINNIPEG, Man. -- If Jesus drove a car, what kind would he drive?

For Chris Huebner, the answer is that he wouldn't drive a car at all--he'd ride a bike.

Huebner, Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), is one of the driving forces (no pun intended) behind Sanctoral Cycle, the university's new bike co-op.

"American theologian Stanley Hauerwas once said that if you teach children to play baseball early on in their lives, you'll raise good children," says Huebner. "I would say it's the same thing with riding a bike. It's more of a skill than driving is, and it's a training of the body."

The co-op takes its name from the liturgical cycle of feast days in honour of the saints. And just as feast days serve to nourish and sustain the body, enabling people to form habits that contribute to virtuous character, the co-op seeks to cultivate good habits of physical health and environmental stewardship, Huebner says.

The idea for the bike co-op originated in spring, prompting Huebner to do some research about co-ops at other universities. Other staff at CMU began to take interest in the idea, and various CMU Student Council committees, such as the Sports & Recreation Committee and Peace & Social Awareness Committee, became interested in helping the co-op get started. It officially opened in September.

Cost of joining the co-op is $10 a year for students, and $20 a year for faculty, staff and alumni. So far, over 30 memberships have been sold. Benefits include free access to tools and workspace, access to affordable shop rates, parts and accessories, and a 15 percent discount at Olympia Cycle and Ski, a local bike shop.

Lucas Redekop, a fourth year theology major from Floradale, Ont., was the first student to purchase a membership. "I support the bike as a form of transportation, and not just a leisure activity. The co-op is a great service to students who commute by bike, and hopefully it will show students who don't bike how accessible it is."

Adam Beriault, a fourth year history major from Calgary, is the co-op's resident mechanic. He agrees with Redekop, saying that the co-op is "a good place to learn how a bike works, and how to fix a bike."

But in addition to the practical benefits, the co-op exists to promote other good reasons for bike riding.

For CMU admissions counsellor Karin Kliewer, riding her bike to work is "part of a conscious slowing down of life . . . any decision to slow down can make space for reflection, which is something we often neglect."

As well, she says, the bike co-op fits in with CMU's emphasis on community and simplicity. "The co-op is a community builder. I dropped in last Wednesday and saw people I really care about working on their bikes. It was exciting to see the resource being used."

Huebner adds that bike riding is also a political act. "There's a big war happening in the Middle East right now, and it's about oil," he says, noting that while bike riding won't alter North American reliance on oil, it is a way of "doing something on a small scale that is nonetheless significant."

Ultimately, he states, the purpose of the co-op "is to promote the use of the bicycle as a form of transportation. It's a simple machine--nuts, bolts, and a little oil--and not hard to keep up."

But most importantly, he says, biking riding "is fun."

28 November 2006

A young person's guide to peak oil and global climate chaos

Gather around kids. It's time for old Uncle Reid to tell you a story that will disturb the living crap out of you.

Written by John Siman

John's peak oil odyssey
[Editor's note: I was surprised at the clear intensity of John's message to unfossilized minds. Let it be heard above the happy talk from hopeless technofixers. - Jan Lundberg]

I have just traveled from the city by the bay to the hills of Tennessee (America still is like a song in some respects), but wherever I go I find that it is usually a waste of time to explain the facts of life to adults (let them read the latest C.E.R.A. report as they drive their s.u.v.s off to nowhere!); my own energy is better spent writing for children and those few adults who maintain some childlike aversion to techno-crafted bullshit. And so I am here to tell, to those with ears to hear, about our Post-Carbon Future.

And just what is our Post-Carbon Future?

To answer this question we must first consider the earth’s carbon-laden past, not the past of hundreds or of thousands of years ago, but a far, far more distant past, going back almost a geological æon, almost a billion years.

We must realize that the trillions and trillions of micro-organisms which dominated the ecology of this planet three-, four-, five-, six-hundred million years ago and more are our long-lost friends. For the atmosphere, now rich in pairs of oxygen atoms unattached to any carbon atoms, was once suffocatingly replete with carbon dioxide. The work of our palaeo-ecologic micro-organic friends (viewed anthropocentrically -- and how else should we humans view things?) was to process the atmosphere’s surfeit of carbon dioxide: to release the pairs of oxygen atoms back into the atmosphere while burying the carbon below the planet’s surface, where it could do no harm to life forms yet-to-be. And the fruit of their hundreds of millions of years of labor was an atmosphere so filled with oxygen that human beings could evolve (or be created, take your pick; the theological argument is moot in this context, which is the necessity of breathing as a minimal requirement for human life).

Now our long-fossilized friends did not dispose of the ex-atmospheric carbon in so unimaginative a way as to ball it up into clumps of coal. No, being truly organic, that is, chemically based on combinations of carbon and hydrogen, they made their (hopefully permanent) deposits into the earth as an array of hydrocarbons, the most famous of which is the fossil fuel rock-oil, in Latin petroleum, in slang black gold and Texas tea, in shorthand oil.

These long-fossilized micro-organisms in effect deposited some two trillion barrels of oil into the earth. So great was the fruit of their labor.

And this miraculous fruit has, in our recent history, proved to be an irresistible temptation to humankind. For if taken from its places of rest and recombined, by means of human technology, with pairs of oxygen atoms, it allows one man to do the work of one hundred, of two hundred men; it allows, even more temptingly, millions of people to live as if they each owned dozens and dozens of slaves. Such power! Such luxury! And so by a profligate indulgence in this fruit, we, the species originally named Homo sapiens, have initiated an Age of Carbon-Fueled Hyper-consumption and transformed ourselves thereby into a new and unprecedented species, Homo colossus, whose hyper-exuberant economy has now come close to exhausting the earth’s finite ecology.

Of the two trillion barrels or so of oil which our micro-organic friends deposited, we humans have burned about half, about one trillion barrels -- and fifty percent of those trillion barrels in the years since Reagan and Gorbachev spoke about the end of the Cold War -- ninety percent of those trillion barrels in the years since Eisenhower and Krushchev brought the Cold War towards its peak: we are on course to almost completely undo several hundred million years of work in a few decades.

And so we are at a crossroads. And at this crossroads some will argue that, as we humans continue to burn some eighty-four million barrels of oil a day (and a fourth of that here in the United States), our global fuel tank is now half empty: we ought therefore to discover some new technology-based efficiencies to promote conservation. Others will retort that, no, our tank is still half full: we ought therefore to implement the latest technology-based efficiencies to promote continued exponential global economic growth and then prepare to burn ninety, a hundred, a hundred and ten million and more barrels a day.

This argument, on both sides, is potentially suicidal for the human race. For both sides argue from the premise that our salvation lies in our ever-improving technology.

But our ever-improving technology is now (however much we idolize it) our great nemesis. For it is no longer a gift to humankind. With the advent of the Age of Carbon-Fueled Hyper-consumption, it has become a hyper-technology; it has become the over-exuberant technology of Homo colossus and has allowed our economy to expand exponentially far beyond the sustainable natural limits of the earth’s ecology.

It allows us to do too much; it gives us too much power.

It puts the remote control box for Gigantor the Space Age Robot into our greedy little hands.

For, in ever-widening spirals, our ever-improving technology feeds on the carbon-fuels which we extract from the earth, and then, growing ever mightier, enables us to extract more and more carbon-fuels with which to feed it, causing it to grow even mightier, enabling us to extract more and therefore feed it (and ourselves!) more, and not just carbon-fuels, but a whole array of natural resources, both renewable and nonrenewable ...

Our ever-improving technology causes us to consume the naturally finite resources of the earth ever more voraciously, ever more destructively … ever more efficiently.

To put it bluntly: With the advent of the Age of Carbon-Fueled Hyper-consumption, our ever-improving technology has become, with the possible exception of ourselves, our worst enemy.

And so we are not at a crossroads. We are at a dead-end. Right ahead of us lies uncharted territory in which the demand for oil, the natural resource most essential to the voracious appetites of Homo colossus and our ever-improving technology, permanently outstrips its supply, a territory in which, therefore, our modern theories of economics, which take no account of the effects of such ecological disorder, begin to break down.

And the technical name for this dead-end is Hubbert’s Peak, the greatest quantity of oil which humans can ever extract from the earth in a year: after we cross Hubbert’s Peak, the necessities of Nature remorselessly dictate that, every succeeding year, we will extract exponentially less and less and less, until our work becomes futile, and we stop.

And there is not just this one Hubbert’s Peak, but many, for it applies to every nonrenewable resource extracted from the earth.

And as we cross these Hubbert’s Peaks, not only do our modern theories of economics break down. Something, far, far worse happens. Crushed by the burden of ecological disorder, our modern economies themselves break down. And pandemic poverty is only the start of The Long Emergency. As Kunstler writes:

Fossil fuels are a unique endowment of geologic history that allow human beings to artificially and temporarily extend the carrying capacity of our habitat on the planet Earth. Before fossil fuels -- namely, coal, oil, and natural gas -- came into general use, fewer than one billion human beings inhabited the earth. Today, after roughly two centuries of fossil fuels, and with extraction now at an all-time high, the planet supports six and a half billion people. Subtract the fossil fuels and the human race has an obvious problem.

So pandemic poverty and population crash, die-off, as the ecologists call it. But there is a third catastrophe looming because, before we subtract the fossil fuels, we are going to burn a whole lot more of them.

This year, for example, we humans will burn about thirty-one billion (84 million barrels/day times 365 days) of the planet’s remaining one trillion barrels of oil. Next year, if we can (that is, if Hubbert’s Peak does not prevent us), we’ll burn more. Ditto the year after that… By burning these billions of barrels of oil, year after year, we will be continuing to inject carbon back into the atmosphere at absolutely profligate rates. And by injecting all this carbon back into the atmosphere -- all this carbon which seemed to have been safely buried, and as if for our benefit -- we will be continuing to turn the ecological clock back to a second Paleozoic Era, that is, one in which humans -- in which all animals in whose nostrils is the breath of life -- ultimately suffocate. Global Warming (it is more accurate to call it Global Climate Change or Global Climate Chaos, for it brings ice as well as fire) is potentially only the first phase of a much more horrible process of global ecological collapse.

Bad news.

Driving hi-tech hybrid cars is not a way out. We have to be willing to stop driving altogether. Nor is turning the thermostat down to sixty a way out. We have to be willing to abandon suburbia with all its accoutrements: the huge supermarkets and the big box stores, the malls and the office parks. And even out of suburbia, we have to be prepared to shiver in the winter and sweat in the summer. We may even have to prepare to die early to make room for other human beings. For our problem is not that we have to reduce the amount of fossil fuels which we burn by a quarter -- or by a third -- or even by half; our problem is that we have to stop burning them almost entirely.

So we can either live the exemplary lives of a Post-Carbon Future or, in the not-so-long run, have no future at all. As William Catton writes:

[W]e must then ask whether we can candidly acknowledge that general affluence simply cannot last in the face of a carrying capacity deficit. That fact is perhaps only a trifle less repugnant than the idea that the buried remains of the Carboniferous Period must not be taken as fuels.

Let me amplify this point.

Mainstream environmentalists talk, and rightly so, about the need for sustainability -- for living within the earth’s carrying capacity -- for making our human economy harmonize with the earth’s ecology. We need to be mindful of the planet we leave to our children and grandchildren, they say. Their hearts are in the right place, but the situation is far more urgent. It was the generations of our parents and grandparents and even great-grandparents who exceeded the earth’s carrying capacity, who, however unwittingly, however unintentionally (as if led by an Invisible Hand!), brought us into an unsustainable economy, and so we, not our progeny, will be the first to face The Long Emergency.

The situation is urgent, the environmentalists will agree. We have to deal with these problems soon, very soon. But to paraphrase Catton, soon came yesterday. To paraphrase Kunstler, the shitstorm is here.

And here’s how I say it: Fuck the pious talk about future generations. We’re the one who have to deal. And if we don’t, we’ll be blindsided by heretofore unimagined economic and ecological disconnectivities.

That is what I mean by our Post-Carbon Future.

* * * * *

1. "Modernity and the Fossil Fuels Dilemma," chapter 2 in James Howard Kunstler's The Long Emergency (2005).
2. "Turning Around," chapter 14 in William Catton's Overshoot (1980).

Global Warming: It's Personal

Published on Wednesday, November 22, 2006 by the Los Angeles Times

Naysayers who argue that climate change is unsolvable because of 'human nature' ignore how past crises were averted.

by Julia Whitty

What if 12 asteroids were on collision courses with Earth? What if we could alter their trajectories and save our planet by the cumulative effect of our individual efforts? What if science and history proved that we were fully capable of such heroism? What would it take to get us started?

John Schellnhuber, distinguished science advisor at the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in Britain, has identified 12 global warming tipping points, such as the deforestation of the Amazon rain forest or the melting of the west Antarctic ice sheet. Any of these, if triggered, would probably initiate sudden changes across the planet as cataclysmic as any asteroid strike.

So what will it take to trigger what we might call the 13th tipping point, the shift from personal denial to personal responsibility? What will tip us toward addressing global warming with the urgency it deserves, as the mother of all threats to homeland security?

A 2005 study on Americans' perceptions of global warming found that most are moderately concerned, but 68% believe that the greatest threats are to people far away or to nonhuman nature — a dangerous and delusional misperception. Only 13% perceive risk to themselves, their families or their communities.

Many secretly perceive global warming to be an insoluble problem and respond by circling the family wagons and turning inward. Yet human beings are born with powerful tools for solving this quandary. We have the genetic smarts and the cultural smarts. We have the technological know-how. We even have the inclination.

The truth is, we can change ourselves with breathtaking speed, sculpting even "immutable" human nature. Forty years ago, many believed human nature mandated that blacks and whites live in segregation; 30 years ago human nature divided men and women into separate economies; 20 years ago human nature prevented us from defusing a global nuclear standoff. Nowadays we blame human nature for the insolvable hazards of global warming.

Research out of the Max Planck Institute in Germany suggests how we might help ourselves evolve. Using a variation on game theory, researchers found that almost no one would donate money anonymously, but that the few who did were the ones who knew most about the issue at hand. So we would be inclined to behave as better environmental citizens when we are educated and our individual actions are visible to those around us — a phenomenon known as "social facilitation."

Perhaps if we're vigorously informed about how global warming endangers our neighborhoods, we'll individually forgo the McMansions and the Hummers and make sustainable choices. Anything less compromises our children's future.

Until then, our denial facilitates "social loafing" — the tendency of individuals to slack when work is shared and individual performance is not assessed. There's no better example than Congress, where members cloak their lethargy regarding global warming behind the stultifying inactivity of their fellows. And why not? After all, who's watching?

Not the media, which habitually squelch new science stories on global warming by rationalizing that we've heard that before — though they would never ignore another round of Middle East bloodletting. The growing body of scientific knowledge on climate change gains heft and power as it accumulates, but the public rarely hears about it, reinforcing our loafing.

Scientists don't help when they react to the terrifying dimensions of public ignorance by sheltering inside hallowed halls. At a recent meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology, 70% of members argued in favor of advocating real solutions to environmental problems directly to lethargic policymakers and the media. Yet very few have stepped out into the public arena at a time when we need their knowledge and expertise as never before.

The nature of tipping points is that they happen dizzyingly fast. The good news is that history proves we're capable of keeping up. Social scientists once believed that it would take decades of government pressure and education for Americans to choose smaller families because the desire to procreate is an absolute part of the human animal, or so they thought. Yet population growth radically declined over only three years in the 1970s — one woman at a time, without an ounce of government involvement.

Political leaders can help. But even without them we can help ourselves. When President Bush says we can't act on global warming until we "fully understand the nature of the problem," we can use his callous disregard as a rallying cry.

The truth is, humans can change, and change fast. Our hallmark is adaptability. Long ago, we looked out from the trees and saw the savannas. Beyond the savannas we glimpsed further frontiers. History proves that when we behold a better world, we move toward it — one person at a time — leaving behind what no longer works.

We know what to do. We know how to do it. We know the timeline. We are our own tipping point.